The Nippon Foundation to Conduct 2 Million Free PCR Tests for Nursing Home Caregivers in Tokyo (1) [2021/01/25]
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on January 19, 2021, I announce The Nippon Foundation’s decision to conduct a total of 2 million free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for care workers of almost 2,900 nursing homes in Tokyo.
Japan continues to experience a significant increase in novel coronavirus infections, straining health care capacity in many areas. It has had much smaller numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities than the United States and some other countries; nevertheless, how to save the lives of persons in higher-risk groups, namely older adults and those with underlying health conditions who are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill or dying if infected, is a daunting challenge.
To help cope with this, The Nippon Foundation has decided to conduct free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for caregivers and other essential workers at almost 2,900 nursing homes in Tokyo. This is the fourth project being undertaken by the foundation in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the decision announced at a press conference on January 19, the foundation plans to start testing on February 8 when we open a PCR testing facility in the compound of the Museum of Maritime Science, operated by our partner organization, in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay.
In carrying out the project, the foundation will be assisted by St. Luke’s International Hospital, Nippon Medical School Hospital, Toho University Omori Medical Center and Juntendo University Hospital as well as the non-profit organization Humanitarian Medical Assistance (HuMA).
The PCR tests will be administered to any among some 190,000 caregivers and other nursing-home staff who wish to get tested. Assuming that we perform the tests on a regular basis, hopefully once a week for each person, we envisage carrying out a total of 2 million tests at a cost of some 20 billion yen (about 193 million dollars) by July when Japan is expected to have made considerable progress in vaccinating its people.
At a time when healthcare capacity is under strain, the initiative to offer caregivers free and regular PCR testing is aimed at helping to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by identifying positive cases with mild or no symptoms and thus prevent them from unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to the elderly and others with underlying health conditions in their care. In particular, it is intended to focus on containing infection clusters.
The PCR testing center will handle 3,000 samples per day initially, 6,000 a day in March, and 14,000 a day in April with the monthly total thereafter expected to rise to about 400,000.
We will send out saliva test kits and analyze the samples after they are returned to the testing center. Anyone who tests positive will be informed and their details reported to their local health center. Family members and others who have been in close contact with them will be tested as well.
(To be continued)